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Carotid Artery Screening


What is carotid artery disease and how does it relate to my risk of stroke?

Carotid artery disease occurs when the major arteries in your neck become narrowed or blocked. These arteries, called the carotid arteries, supply your brain with blood. Your carotid arteries extend from your aorta in your chest to the brain inside your skull. These arteries are normally smooth and unobstructed on the inside, however, with age, a substance called plaque can build up along the arterial walls. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue. As plaque builds up, your arteries narrow and stiffen. This process is called atherosclerosis. Eventually, when enough plaque builds up to reduce or disturb blood flow through your carotid arteries, physicians call this problem carotid artery disease. Carotid artery disease is a serious health problem because it can cause a stroke.
Frequently Asked Questions
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What is carotid artery disease and how does it relate to my risk of stroke?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What are the risk factors for developing carotid artery disease?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What is a screening ultrasound of the carotid arteries?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What will I experience during the procedure?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City How should I prepare for the procedure?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

Some plaque deposits are soft and can crack or form roughened, irregular areas along the arterial wall. If this happens, your body will respond as if you were injured and form a blood clot around this area. If the clot blocks the artery enough to slow or stop blood and oxygen flow to your brain, it could cause a stroke. More commonly, a piece of the plaque itself, or a clot, breaks off from the plaque deposit and travels through your bloodstream. This particle can then lodge in a smaller artery in your brain and cause a stroke. More than 730,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. In fact, someone suffers a stroke every forty-five seconds, making stroke a leading cause of adult disability as well as the third leading cause of death nationwide.



What are the risk factors for developing carotid artery disease?

Carotid artery disease and stroke affect people of increasing age (usually over 60 years), and is more common in men than in women. Only 1 percent of adults age 50 to 59 have significantly narrowed carotid arteries, but 10 percent of adults age 80 to 89 have this problem. It is also seen more commonly in smokers, patients with high blood pressure, diabetics and those with high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia).


What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease?

Carotid artery disease may be asymptomatic, however, there are warning signs of a stroke. A transient ischemic attack (also called TIA or "mini-stroke") is one of the most important warning signs of a stroke.

A TIA is a temporary episode of:

  • blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • weakness and/or numbness of your arm, leg or face on one side of your body
  • slurring of speech, difficulty talking or understanding what others are saying
  • loss of coordination, dizziness or confusion
  • trouble swallowing

A TIA may last a few minutes or a few hours. Please remember that a TIA is a medical emergency since it is impossible to predict if it will progress into a major stroke. If you or someone you knows experiences these symptoms, get emergency help (Call 9-1-1 in most areas). Immediate treatment can save your life or increase your chance of recovery.


What is a screening ultrasound of the carotid arteries?

A screening ultrasound of the carotid arteries is a fast, painless, and non-invasive way of evaluating your carotid arteries for disease. The ultrasound image may show narrowing where the diseased segment of the artery is. Ultrasound can also be used to study the speed of blood flow at the point of narrowing. Red cells have to speed up to get through the narrowed segments, and the increase in flow velocity is related to the degree of narrowing. While most exams will be normal, this test can provide evidence of significant carotid artery disease early enough to be treated in time to decrease the risk of a significant stroke.


What will I experience during the procedure?

You are positioned face-up on the examination table. The sonographer will then spread some warm gel on your skin and place the transducer against your neck, moving it back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured. You may actually hear pulse-like sounds that change in pitch as the blood flow is monitored and measured. Once the imaging is complete, the gel will be wiped off your skin. After an ultrasound exam, you should be able to resume your normal activities immediately.


How should I prepare for the procedure?

No preparation is necessary in advance. You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. You will need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined. You may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure.


Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

A Radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will share the results with you.

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